The Democratic National Committee has decided to postpone its party convention in Milwaukee from July 13 until August 17 because of the coronavirus outbreak. The date in August will fall one week before the Republican convention in Charlotte, N.C.
The DNC had been resisting the idea of changing the date of the convention, but when the presumptive candidate, Joe Biden, publicly called for a postponement, the party obliged.
The delay from July 13 follows weeks of behind-the-scenes discussions with party leaders and the two remaining presidential candidates’ campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. The DNC had been resisting calls from Democratic officials to change the date, but was forced to shift gears after likely nominee Joe Biden this week called for a delay.
“I’m confident our convention planning team and our partners will find a way to deliver a convention in Milwaukee this summer that places our Democratic nominee on the path to victory in November,” convention CEO Joe Solmonese said in a statement Thursday.
Planning for the convention was far along and the city of Milwaukee had already devoted a lot of resources to make the July 13 date. With the DNC’s cash problems, it will apparently affect the kind of show that the Democrats put 0n.
In addition to postponing, DNC officials are discussing ways to scale back the convention. The committee is not flush with cash and wants to avoid the appearance of throwing a big party in the midst of a severe economic downturn.
“People are going to be hurting,” a DNC official said. “It’s not a time be lavish.”
While it’s not going to be cheap for Milwaukee to move the date, officials appear resigned to the reality of the virus.
Alex Lasry, senior vice president of the Milwaukee Bucks and a leader of the Milwaukee convention bid, told POLITICO: ““This is the right decision for the safety of those involved in the convention and for Milwaukee. An August convention will provide a much-needed economic boost for Milwaukee and Wisconsin as we come out of this unprecedented time.”
While all of us hope that things will be getting back to normal long before mid-August, what if it isn’t? The Democrats had been exploring the idea of a “virtual” convention — especially after the Olympic games were canceled.
The Rev. Leah D. Daughtry, who headed the 2008 and 2016 Democratic conventions, told Sabato’s Crystal Ball that canceling the in-person convention is “a rising possibility, especially now that the Olympics are postponed for a year. It will be difficult to justify gathering 50,000 people in one place when the very next week it would have been the Olympics and they’ve been canceled.”
If some positive event occurs, such as a very early vaccine or drastically improved testing, “then maybe an in-person convention can be pulled off successfully,” said Colorado State University political scientist Kyle Saunders. However, he added, “I have to think a convention is unlikely if we are assessing things today.”
There are other things to consider: will hotels be open and fully staffed? Will there be enough workers at the convention, police officers and security personnel?
I don’t think this date is set in stone and it wouldn’t surprise me if Democrats had a two-track plan that includes both an in-person and virtual convention.